Prince, Purple Rain courtesy of Vulture.com
* Due to recent events, I had to add this post. I apologize, this was hastily thrown together.
Dear fellow creatives,
The bad news is that we all won’t be icons. The good news is that you can still create work that will be remembered and valued. I truly believe there can only be a handful of super nova stars whose lights shine so bright only for the purpose of providing inspiration for the tiers of talents. You may not Michael Jackson Justin Timberlake, but you haven’t done too badly for yourself. There are a bunch of extremely successful artists that have been inspired by the rare few. The start of this year has been biggest sum of loss of musical icons of my generation. Maurice White, Glen Fry, David Bowie and now Prince and not to be left out, Phife Dawg, who I still want to have ATCQ dance in memory of. My generation was that of the Friday Night Videos and the start of the breakout cable station sensation that only showed music videos, MTV. This all day, video only format introduced another form of artist worship; we could see them now. I recall the elders of the world perceiving MTV as garbage, but it changed the music artist game completely. For the good and the bad, it changed us all. I can’t imagine the world without it.
Today, we lost true musical royalty - Prince Rogers Nelson. He WAS a musician’s musician. I remember how floored I was as a kid learning that he played all of the instruments in a recording. Say what? He doesn’t just sing or play the guitar real slick? I, along with many of my friends and colleagues are shocked and devastated. Prince? No way? While this news spread like wild fire via email and text message to my phone and my computer, I found myself incredibly moved and saddened and still am. I didn’t know him. Why is this affecting me to the lengths that dumping out my emotions has taken precedence over working? As I discuss his death we all immediately begin to share experiences and the answer came to me. Slices of our lives are defined by music. Some of us were fortunate enough to have seen him preform, or are musicians or fans of good music or are the same generation as I and grew up with him. I have to admit that I have had to stop myself from working up my real urge to cry. I fully expect when I go home, I will listen to one of the many classics of his and straight out lose it. But why? I know…it is the memories…
When I was a child, every home had a record player. That is how we listened to music. It was a communal experience. The big squishy headphones only came out when other people were trying to do other things besides listen to your music and even then, you were locked into place. The cord would only stretch so far. Otherwise, you shared that experience of listening to well produced, high quality music with others. My sister had a record player in her room in addition to the household stereo system/record player /tuner. Here is where we listened to the younger stuff. We enjoyed listening to the Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes or Carole King downstairs with our parents, but right above, we listened to Culture Club, Wham and Prince. That Purple Rain album still stands out in my mind like it was yesterday. I always knew then that “Darling Nikki” was something I probably should not be listening to because I didn’t understand it. All I knew was that we never played it when the parents were stirring about. There we were, two children, sisters, sitting together in a room, carefully examining the album cover and inspecting the liner notes and loving music. That is why I will cry.
I will cry because in 1994, Prince changed his name to a symbol and his single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” was on the charts (we had now moved away from albums, and were listening to cassettes). In May of that year, I attended my senior prom and I remember all the excitement of going and having an audience waiting for my entrance at the bottom of the steps. Only seconds after I let them know I was ready and was coming down, my father cued “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” for my descent. I felt like a princess and very lucky to have a father that sweet.
I will cry because I have a wonderful and talented friend who is a singer and I am always delighted when I have the opportunity to see him do his “thang.” On one evening I had the great fortune to see him perform in NYC years ago after making one of my many pre-show requests. My sister and I always suggest songs. I love the song, “How Come You Don’t Call Me” and somehow this request stuck. The show was already hot, but as soon as he began to introduce the next song and said, “this is for my friend…,” I couldn’t hear anything else but him perform the hell out it. He even got down on his knees for the begging part. HE WAS BEGGING ME. That one of one the best times of my life and that is why I will cry.
Creatives, none of us will live forever or love forever, but make the work that will. If it is on your heart make it and will it. We all can’t and won’t be icons, or win every award from our peers or have millions of fan, but that work that you are pouring your blood, sweat and tears for can. Make it for yourself and the rest will follow no matter great or small. We are all made of stardust.